Controversial Microsoft plan heads for Longhorn

Company is still fiddling with its "trusted" PC security technology and says some version of it will be in next version of Windows.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
2 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft continues to make adjustments to a controversial architecture for securing PCs but still plans to include the feature in Longhorn, the next release of Windows.

The software maker stressed that Longhorn will work regardless of whether the Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) is enabled. That technology is designed to make PCs more secure by shifting sensitive data and operations into a separate part of the computer's operation. The software maker also continues an overhaul of the technology, which is already quite different from the code that was given out to developers at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference last year.

"We're making some modifications based on feedback from the industry," said Steve Heil, Windows technical evangelist, on Wednesday during a presentation at the Intel Developer Forum here.

The revamped NGSCB will still allow companies that use it to separate things like keystrokes and user logins into a separate "compartment" within Windows, a move that should make such information harder for hackers to access. One of the big changes is that these compartments are based on Windows programming interfaces as compared with the custom code that was required in the version given out at the Professional Developer Conference.

The technology will continue to let companies also run custom programs, or "scenarios," within a secure layer, although that appears to be less of a focus than when Microsoft first demonstrated the software last year. At the time there was concern that Microsoft was trying to lock in Windows customers and that it could lock users out of their data.

Heil said potential customers were concerned that the security benefits of the earlier approach were outweighed by the pain involved in changing their internal applications.

Microsoft has been trying to create these kinds of changes to Windows for more than half a decade, since developers and researchers at the company first outlined the ideas of a "Trusted Windows." The initiative took on the code name Palladium in 2002, and, Heil said, raised the ire of those who saw it as the equivalent of digital rights management on a chip.

The latest changes have been in the works for a while, with the shift first evident at the WinHec conference this spring in Seattle.

Despite the changes, Microsoft still plans for some version of the technology to be included in Longhorn, which is due for desktops and notebooks in 2006 and for servers in 2007.

"We're on track to have...at least some of those features in the Longhorn release," Heil said.